Starting A War

Another short story of dubious quality.  This was an attempt to tell a complete story that could take place in a larger universe, either in conjunction with other stories or a book.  Feel free to comment and pass it around.

Destrin crouched in the shadows, watching the inn.  His target was still inside, and a right good time he was having, based on the boisterous noises spilled out into the darkness.  Destrin sighed, wondering again who the man who hired him was.  Who knew killing was such boring sport.

The former soldier had worked as a scout and spy in the border wars of a few years past until peace and the enlargement of the empire’s borders had led some of the more unwanted members of the army being released from duty.  Destrin had heard rumors that Ol’ Silverhair was still heading up an intelligence agency for the empire but no one had ever contacted him regarding the matter. After the excitement of the years at war, Destrin found himself unable to keep employment in the boring life of peacetime.  He soon began spending his time drinking and gambling, trying to forget some of the horrors he had seen in the war and waking up most mornings to find he had passed out in a gutter.

That was where the strange man had found him, a tall pale man with a wild shock of black hair that had a streak of white down the middle.  The man had hauled Destrin out of the gutter and dumped him in the nearest horse trough.

“By the gods, what a despicable mess you have become,” the stranger muttered as Destrin’s head broke the water only to be pushed back beneath the surface.  Destrin tried to rise several more times only to be dunked.  Finally, the stranger grabbed him by the scrape of the neck and tossed him to the muddy ground.

Destrin scrambled to his knees, coughing and sputtering and swinging at the man in front of him, who merely took a step back.

“Quit acting like a bloody fool,” the man hissed at Destrin.  “I need you stone cold sober and that was the quickest way to get it started.  Gods, I’ve seen monks on vows of poverty wear nicer clothing then you.  Have you even eaten solid food lately?”

“I had a slice of bread the other day,” Destrin mumbled defensively.

“You certainly do not look like the man who I have been tracking down.  But facts are facts.  You are Destrin of Pelorn, are you not?”

“What’s it to you,” Destrin asked defiantly as he stumbled to his feet.

“Tsk, tsk.  I suppose we must get you cleaned and fed.  I am staying at the inn in the center of town.  Once you can walk under your own power, go straight there and give the clerk your name.  There is a room reserved for you and they will have a bath and some food prepared.  I have some matters to discuss with you over breakfast.  Do not dally to long.”  With that the stranger turned and walked, leaving Destrin blinking as he swayed on his feet beside the horse trough.

Destrin stirred as the door to the inn opened; light, laughter and music spilling out into the dark.  He tried to quell his trembling fingers as they reached into his belt for the poisoned dagger.  The dark shape grew closer as the man walked drunkenly to the privy.  The would-be assassin settled back once the man reached the lights of the lanterns that lit the way to the privy.  It was not his man.  Destrin looked up to the sky, judging the moon.  Still plenty of time, he judged.

Burning eyes looked across the table at the newly washed and clothed former spy.  Destrin picked at his food, knowing too much food would not sit well on his stomach.  “So what do you want with me?”

“I have a little job for you.  I understand that during the recent unpleasant activities along the border with Tamarland you were rated very highly as a good intelligence officer.”

Destrin shrugged, mouth stuffed with bread.  “Unpleasant activities is a bit of a understatement.  I saw women and children slaughtered and raped.  I don’t want to do anything related to what went on during that war.”

The stranger smiled.  “Ah, but Destrin, you could prevent such from happening again.  A high ranking Tamarland nobleman is visiting the country, ostensibly under the color of diplomacy, but we have sources that say he is involved in espionage and wanting to restart the war.  They still have not got over losing the land we took from them.”

“You want me to kill a diplomat, a nobleman?  I would hang.”

“This mission comes from the top.  Most of the citizens of the Cimar Strip are happy to be citizens of the empire.  Think what would happen to them if Tamarland and Cimara went to war.  Since Cimara is part of the empire, empire troops would be involved, not just the Cimaran regional soldiers.  You saw the last war.  Do you want that to happen again?”

The back door of the inn opened again; Destrin swallowed, clammy fingers closing around the hilt of the dagger.  He waited until the man reached the light and swore.  The man was wearing the clothing with the exact same insignia that the stranger in Falora had shown him.  At the time he had told the stranger that he had never seen any Tamarlanders wearing such insignia, but the stranger brushed him aside and said that it was the markings of the inner circle.

Destrin gathered the cloak around him that the stranger had provided and step out behind the nobleman headed to the privy.  He wrapped an arm around the nobleman’s throat and stabbed for his stomach.  The poisoned blade bit into the soft belly again and again, the dying man crying out.  Destrin whipped around, dropping the body as he saw the light as the inn door was opened.  One of the inn guards stood there, his eyes meeting Destrin’s as he saw the body on the ground.

Destrin bolted for the shadows only to cry out when he felt a heavy weight strike him in the shoulder.  The cruelly shaped arrow tore into his flesh.  Stumbling, another struck him in the back, then another as he arched in pain, then fell to the ground.  I hope I have made you proud, father; he murmured silently as his blood soaked the soil beneath him.

A group of several guards and a well dressed man with black hair that had a strange stripe of white gathered around his body.  Another guard approached after checking the body of the nobleman.  “Lord Telarus is dead, sir,” he told the pale stranger.

“Who would have the balls to take out the queen’s nephew,” replied Sir Archer, who was well known as a dangerous courtier vying for power with the other plotters at court.  He had been traveling with Lord Telarus on a hunting trip and Telarus and his friends had welcomed the chance to stop and actually sleep inside.

“I found this in a hidden pocket in his cloak, sir,” a guard crouched by the body of the assassin said as he handed Archer a bloody envelope.  Archer held it gingerly and opened it with his handkerchief.

The courtier swore as he read the letter.  “Who knows why he kept such incriminating evidence but thank the gods above he did.  Saddle my horse, I must ride immediately back to court.  It appears someone in the court of the Hawa Island kingdom paid this assassin to kill the queen’s nephew.  I suppose they are not content with the lands they gained by treaty.  I can only hope this does not mean another war.”

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